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All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/18/2017

Guests: Brian Schatz; Ben Cardin, Matthew Miller, Maggie Hassan

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 18, 2017 Guest: Brian Schatz; Ben Cardin, Matthew Miller, Maggie Hassan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST:  -- Obama.  That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hays starts right now.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY DIRECTOR NOMINEE:  I would imagine that there`s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.

HAYES:  These are the people who will run your government.

BERNIE SANDERS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM VERMONT:  Why is the climate changing?  I`m asking your personal opinion.

SCOTT PRUITT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY DIRECTOR NOMINEE:  My personal opinion is immaterial.

SANDERS:  Really?

HAYES:  Tonight, democrats grill Trump`s nominees.  What we`re learning and why it really matters.  Plus, the man Donald Trump tapped to dismantle ObamaCare goes on the hot seat.

TOM PRICE, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FOR GEORGIA:  I`m offended by the insinuation senator.

PATTY MURRAY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:  You may be offended, but here`s what you did.

HAYES:  What we`re learning about his possible stock scandal.

And as President Obama says farewell.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  At my core, I think we`re going to be OK.

HAYES:  The latest on an FBI investigation into Donald Trump and the Russians.  And new questions about whether or not he can shut it down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  So I`m saying, if there is no tape, there is no event.  I was never even in that room for that period of time.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  In just two days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States and we find ourselves in the midst of yet another insane and overstuffed news day with a former President in the intensive care unit due to complications from pneumonia, his wife also hospitalized, the President-elect giving some pretty illuminating new interviews as another poll yet another one, shows he`s the least popular incoming President in modern history.  And a final press conference from President Obama who leaves the White House with the highest approval ratings since his first year in office.

We`re going to focus on what we believe is the biggest story today and something the President himself highlighted at that press conference.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I think a lot of these views are going to be shaped by his advisers, the people around him, which is why it`s important to pay attention to these confirmation hearings.  This is a job of such magnitude that you can`t do it by yourself.  You are enormously reliant on a team.  How you put a team together to make sure that they`re getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions.  That`s probably the most useful advice, the most constructive advice that I`ve been able to give him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Personnel is policy, in other words.  Especially for a chief executive who for the first time in the history of this republic, has zero experience in public service of any kind, not the government nor the military.  With policy positions all over the map, even changing from one day to the next, it`s nearly impossible to predict just what Trump will do as president.  The only thing he`s actually had to do so far is pick his top advisors and cabinet secretary nominees.  And on that score, the last two days of confirmation hearings have been an utter train wreck.  On Capitol Hill today, Trump`s point man on health care, Congressman Tom Price, was besieged by ethical and legal questions over stock trades he`s made involving the medical industry while sitting on a committee that oversees said industry.  At one point, Price was even caught directly contradicting an official fact sheet from the Trump transition stating that Price is, and I quote here, "financial adviser designed his portfolio and directed all trades in the account."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRICE:  I did it through a broker.  I directed the broker to purchase the stock, but I did it through a broker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You directed the broker to purchase particularly that stock?

PRICE:  That`s correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Now, more on Price`s legal and ethical issues ahead.  At his hearing today, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt faced tough questions from Senator Bernie Sanders over his stance on manmade climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS:  Why is the climate changing?

PRUITT:  Senator, in response to the CO2 issue, the EPA administrator is constrained by statutes --

SANDERS:  I`m asking your personal opinion.

PRUITT:  My personal opinion is immaterial to the job of - to the job of --

SANDERS:  Really?  You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  More of that exchange with Sanders coming up.  Both of those hearings came after the shaky debut last night of Trump`s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, who showed little familiarity with some of the central tenets of education policy, including a landmark law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGGIE HASSAN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE:  That`s a federal civil rights law, so do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the states whether to follow it?

DEVOS:  The law must be -- federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.

HASSAN:  So were you unaware what I just asked you about the idea that it was a federal law.

DEVOS:  I may have confused it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Senator Maggie Hassan who you saw just there joins me live later in the show.  We also learned in the course of the vetting process, two of Trump`s nominees discovered problems with household workers, the exact kind of issue that has disqualified cabinet picks in the past.  Trump`s nominee for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross admitted at his hearing today, he recently fired a long-time employee who he found to be undocumented.  Employing undocumented workers was enough to thwart two of Bill Clinton`s Attorney General nominees in 1993, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood.  Both forced to withdraw.  Mick Mulvaney, Trumps pick to direct the office of Management of Budget just disclosed he had failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. 

Eight years ago, a similar tax compliance issue derailed the nomination of Tom Daschle who had been the senate majority leader for Secretary of Health and Human Services.  But in 2017, republicans hold the majority in the senate and unless GOP senators defect from their party, these are the people who will be running the government.  I`m joined now by Senator Brian Schatz, who`s a democrat from Hawaii. 

Senator, there are various opinions about how senators should take their role of advice and consent.  There are some who believe the President should have constitutionally and as a matter of principle wide latitude in selecting the people in his administration.  Others were much more willing to vote no.  Where`s your personal feeling on this?

BRIAN SCHATZ UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM HAWAII:  Well, I think a President ought to have his or her cabinet.  I certainly think that they ought to be able to assemble their team but there ought to be exceptions.  And I think, for me, those exceptions come with Pruitt, come with Betsy DeVos and come with Tom Price.  And the reason for all three of them, I think, not being qualified for these cabinet positions, is that they are unique.  They are being asked to lead agencies that they want to dismantle.  Tom Price wants to shred the social safety net.  It`s not that he just wants to undo ObamaCare, he actually wants to block grant Medicaid.  He didn`t vote for the children`s health insurance program.  This is a person who has made a career out of systematically dismantling the social safety net.  And I know Chris, you`ve been a real - a hawk on climate over the many, many years.  Scott Pruitt is not qualified to lead the EPA.  There`s just never been a person even on the republican side, who`s been an EPA nominee who wants to do such violence to the basic mission of the EPA.

HAYES:  So, I want to understand you correctly, senator, are you as of now a no on all three of those?

SCHATZ:  I`m a no on all three of those.  And Betsy DeVos, oh, boy, that was a - that was a rough performance last night to watch.  And you know, I was talking with a friend of mine who`s not in politics, that really went viral all over the internet.  Millions and millions of views of a - of a health education labor and pensions meeting.  Something is happening across the country and unfortunately, it`s you know, not late October of last year but rather now where people are starting to realize that a lot of these nominees are going to do violence to the agencies that they want to run.  We have a nominee for the Education Department who basically will not commit to public education.  Who doesn`t understand the law at its most basic level and won`t commit to not privatizing public education.

HAYES:  So you`re a no on all those three.  I mean, the - we - I remember hearing early reports, democrats were going to choose one or two to focus their fire against obviously civil rights groups.  I feel very strongly about Jeff Sessions.  Although, it`s his colleagues who will be voting.  That`s going to be a tough vote for democrats to win.  There are also concerns about Mnuchin.  I mean, what I`m hearing from you is, do you feel it is the temperature of the democratic caucus that opposition is not politically problematic for them?

SCHATZ:  I think you`re exactly right.  I think we understand that we`re the fighting 48.  We are the leaders of the Democratic Party nationally and people expect us to fight.  Look, they also expect us to allow a President to stand up a government, so I anticipate this week, secretary nominee Mattis and secretary nominee Kelly will likely get a vote later on this week or early next week.  We want that national security team in place partly because we want rational sane adults in the room in case something happens right away where the new Commander in Chief has to deal with it.  But there are a couple - not just a couple probably three to six nominees that I think a lot of us are going to have an extremely hard time swallowing.

HAYES:  So you just said you`re the fighting 48.  48 being the key number there, which is the number of democrats.  You need two or three votes, you need three votes to defect.  And do you have any sense that there`s anything that any of these nominees could do or say, whether their performance in the hearing or what`s turned up in vetting that would lose them those three votes?

SCHATZ:  You know, I don`t know the answer to that question, but I know a lot of people have been noticing that many of the sort of mini scandals that have popped up in this issue with Mr. Price and a stock trade, lesser things have sunk greater nominees in the past.  So, we`re trying to figure out sort of what is the new political calculation.  Is there nothing that would cause a republican to defy the President-elect?  Is there - are there other no circumstances where we are going to get any bipartisan cooperation from the republicans, because look, I have private conversations with members of the senate on the GOP side who tell me they`re rational on climate, and yet none of them have popped their head up and said that they can`t vote for a climate denier for the EPA. 

So we`re going to need some profiles in courage.  We don`t need a dozen a dozen of them, we only need two or three in order to make a strong statement on one or several of these nominees.

HAYES:  Of course, courage in the senate usually has to do with whether people are calling in as constituents or making themselves known as voters.  Senator Brian Schatz, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

SCHATZ:  Thank you, Chris.

HAYES:  Joining me now, MSNBC Contributor Katie Packer, who`s deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012; and MSNBC Contributor Sam Seder, host of "THE MAJORITY REPORT". 

And Katie, you know, I want to start with you, because the standard here is interesting, right?  I remember the early days, right, of Clinton they kind of came right out and they - and they ran into a buzz saw with several nominees.  Tom Daschle was a sort of example of that for Barack Obama, though mostly it`s smooth sailing.  But it occurs to me that in some ways that`s all perception and shame.  Right?  I mean, a scandal is only big enough to blow up a nominee if that`s how it`s perceived to be, but if you can lock down the votes then you could basically confirm anyone.

KATIE PACKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, and the rules are just sort of different now.  You know, it used to be that when you had some scandals that the incumbent - or the President-elect and his team would kind of hint that this is maybe time to step aside.  Trump doesn`t really cow that easily.  And so, you know, Trump is standing by, you know, people that he has put into these positions.  Some of these so-called scandals, are they really scandals?  I mean, Tom Price`s stock trade netted him I think $300.  I mean, does that really something that the American people are going to be so outraged over, you know, as some of these senators are?  You know, I don`t know that the American public looks at the EPA as, you know, sort of, the golden goose that you know, many of the liberals on Capitol Hill view it as.  What a lot of these democrats really object to, is that these are republicans that actually are supporting republican ideals that are being nominated and they don`t like it.  Of course, they don`t.  But I don`t know that they`re really scandals.

HAYES:  I think - I think that we should make a distinction, right?  So in Tom Price`s case, we`re going to talk about that.  I mean, there`s an allegation of behavior that might violate the Stock Act.  Maybe it didn`t at all, but there`s some clarity that needs there, which is distinct from the ideological case.  Do you agree with Katie that this is -- look, anyone that a republican President who nominated for EPA democrats aren`t going to like what they`re going to do.  Anyone that they`ve nominate for education they`re not going to like what they`re going to do.

SAM SEDER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR AND THE MAJORITY REPORT HOST:  Well, I mean, look, I think -

HAYES:  How do you distinguish between normal and abnormal, basically?

SEDER:  Well, I think, is it - is it an appointment that attempts to actually nullify the existence of the agency?  I mean, I think the senator made this point.  You have Pruitt whose job it has been to actually nullify the statutory authority of the EPA -- to litigate against it.

PACKER:  So what?

HAYES:  Sue the EPA.

SEDER:  And now, he`s going to be - literally, he`s going to be working --

(CROSSTALK)

PACKER:  So what?  Republicans don`t like these agencies.

SEDER:  I understand the republicans - well, OK, but see, that should be explicit.  If the republicans don`t like these agencies and they want to sell to the American public that the EPA should not be the environmental protection agency, but rather it should be the allow corporations -

HAYES:  Extraction protection agency.

SEDER:  -- to extract as much as they want.  Then they should come out and explicitly say it.  There`s a reason why they`re not.

PACKER:  Republicans have been saying that for years.

SEDER:  If Betsy DeVos wants to sell the ideology that they should use government money to simply fund parochial schools, then she should come out and say it.  She`s incredibly evasive.

PACKER:  That is - that is not - that is not what Betsy DeVos stand for and has stood for at all.

SEDER:  She was incredibly evasive in hearing and she did not address the - all the questions that had to do - that the senate was asking.  I mean, clearly, they think it`s a problem, or they wouldn`t be so -

(CROSSTALK)

PACKER:  That is not what Betsy DeVos has stood for at all.

HAYES:  But she does - DeVos does favor - she does favor vouchers.

PACKER:  She does favor vouchers.  What Betsy DeVos has stood for, for the last several decades is allowing parents to have choice.  Not just rich parents who`ve had choice for, you know, forever but for all parents to have choice, and what the democrats on that committee don`t seem to understand is all these so-called qualified people that have served at the helm of the Department of Education, have left you know, generations of children in failing schools. 

HAYES:  So, you - OK.

PACKER:  They haven`t fixed that with all of these experts.  Betsy DeVos is somebody that has a passion for those children, and that`s what she brings to the table.

HAYES:  Right.  But do you -- do you think - do you think - so you think passion is more important than expertise?

PACKER:  I think Betsy has a lot of expertise.

HAYES:  You thought yesterday - you thought yesterday she manifested expertise at that hearing?

PACKER:  I thought many of the questions that were being asked were designed to try to trip her up.  They weren`t designed to assess whether or not she was qualified for this job at all.

HAYES:  So you - so you think Betsy DeVos is sort of -- DeVos is in the mainstream of - I mean, there`s sort of different kinds of ways of looking at these different nominees.  Right?  There are nominees who are sort of Trump nominees and nominees who could have been, say, Marco Rubio nominees, and what I hear from you as someone who is an anti-Trumper but a diehard republican that Betsy DeVos falls squarely to you within - and Scott Pruitt and Tom Price, these are all basically - you`re good with these as a republican rock-ribbed nominee?

PACKER:  Yes.  I think - I think that Betsy falls squarely in that category and has the support of republicans not because she has contributed to those republicans, she knows those republicans and they know her and they know her background and they trust her.

HAYES:  Well, they know her a little bit because she`s contributed to them.

PACKER:  That`s why she had that kind of support

SEDER:  Yes.  That certainly does it.

PACKER:  It`s not - every - you know, the democrats want to make this about contributions and her wealth.  But Betsy is a known quantity because of her role in education.

SEDER:  Betsy DeVos - Betsy DeVos is on record as saying that she does not believe - she is on record as saying that she does not believe that Christian Philanthropy can fund Christian education and she is looking for other sources.  She is on record saying this.  She is on record saying she doesn`t believe in public school, she believes in the concept of public education --

PACKER:  That is not what she said.

SEDER: -- where you take public funding and fund private schools.  And everyone knows -

PACKER:  That is not -- she did not say she does not believe in public schools.  That is (INAUDIBLE) false.

SEDER: -- everyone who is - look at this, even supporters of charters.

HAYES:  So -- SEDER:  Know that she is just looking to drain money from the system and we know how this works out. 

PACKER:  That is absolutely false.

SEDER:  Subsidies for people living in poverty do not work in terms of providing them spaces in private schools.  Bottom line. 

HAYES:  So, let me --

PACKER:  No, but trapping kids in failing schools works very, very well.

SEDER:  She`s not even attempting to fix the public schools.  She`s totally disregarding them and wants to undercut the entire system. 

PACKER:  That`s absolutely not true. 

SEDER:  And she should come out and be honest with it.

PACKER:   Charter schools are public schools.  Charter schools are public schools.

SEDER:  If that is the standard - republican position, she should be up front about it.

HAYES:  Well, I would say this.  Only just to intervene for a moment, I think.  To Katie`s point, it does strike me that, you know, there`s ways of undoing things statutorily and through administration, right?  So, you could -- republicans could, for instance, get rid of the Department of Education, they could get rid of the EPA, they could do those things.  They`re not going to do those things even if they don`t believe in the current mission of it.  I will say this.  Do you think there`s a standard that people of their own - what should the standard be, Katie, for you when you think about -- what is the standard that I would not as a senator vote for someone from my own party?  I mean, we haven`t even touched Ben Carson who an incredibly accomplished career as a neurosurgeon, I think everyone would agree.  He by his own admission knows nothing about housing policy and his own spokesperson said that he shouldn`t run a federal agency because he doesn`t know enough earlier.  We`re just sort of letting that one go because he`s not a kind of lightning rod in the way these ones we`re talking about but that also seems to me like -- I don`t know.  What do you think of that?

PACKER:  Well, I think that the Trump administration is in a very, very difficult place with both the liberals on Capitol Hill and with the media because if they - if they bring in so-called experts that have been doing this for decades, then he`s accused of not draining the swamp.  If he brings in outsiders that have different kinds of expertise and a different approach, then he`s accused of, you know, not bringing in people that know what they`re doing.  I do think that there`s some disagreement about what the approach to public education should be.  The democrats are completely beholding to Randi Weingarten and the teachers unions and are never going to do anything that challenges that.  Betsy DeVos is a real threat to them because she`s going to challenge that.

HAYES:  Wait, wait, wait.  Let me just make - let me just -

SEDER:  You know what education is about?  A problem with teacher unions?  I mean, she could not even answer --

PACKER:  It`s certainly part of the problem.

SEDER: -- the most fundamental question that faces educators today about growth versus --

HAYES:  Proficiency.  Let me - let me just wrap this up with just one little point which is that - in terms of beholden Randi Weingarten, I will say, as someone who`s interviewed her a lot, that it was tremendous dissatisfaction with Arne Duncan and Obama education policy from the teacher unions across the board.  An incredible internal civil war in the democratic party probably about the education policy.  So, I wouldn`t say it lockstep.

PACKER:  I`m sure it pales to how she feels about Betsy DeVos.

HAYES:  That - on that we all agree.  Katie Packer and Sam Seder, thank you very much.

Up next, what we know about Tom Price`s stock trades that are raising ethical and legal questions.  We just reheard some.  It`s something that came up often in yet another heated confirmation hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH WARREN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS:  Did you take additional actions after that date to advance your plan to help the company that you now own stock in?

WARREN:  I`m offended by the insinuation, senator.

MURRAY:  Well, let me just read what you did.  You may be offended, but here`s what you did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY:  You told me that you did this one on your own without the broker.  Yes?

PRICE:  No, I did it through a broker.  I directed the broker to purchase the stock but I did it through a broker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  All right.  That was Trump`s HHS nominee Tom Price, a member of Congress in the other house of course.  At his confirmation hearing today, contradicting previous statements about whether or not he used a broker in a deal with an Australian pharmaceutical company.  There have been a flurry of allegations about potential self-dealing by the Georgia congressman and they can be a little hard to keep track of it at this point.

So, first it was discovered Price had received a sweetheart deal - and I`m using that term from Kaiser`s description of it -- from Australian biotech firm that allowed him and another congressman to buy that company stock at a significantly discounted price.  Now that`s the deal Senator Murray asked him about in the clip we just played.  That deal, while perhaps unseemly, does appear at first blush to be legal.  But a few days, after that story broke, Time Magazine came out with another story about Price, this one alleging he invested in six different pharmaceutical companies just weeks before introducing legislation that would have benefitted all six companies.  Something that looks a lot more like a potential violation of federal law. 

But the biggest story about Price, the one that alleged the most direct quid pro quo, or at least implied it, and the one that prompted an immediate response from the campaign was the discovery by CNN that on March 17, 2016, Price purchased stock in a medical device company that describes itself as the world leader in hip and knee replacements.  Then less than a week later, Price introduced legislation called the "HIP Act" which would have directly benefitted that same company.  If Price made that trade with direct knowledge of that, that he was going to introduce that legislation that would almost certainly have been illegal.

Now remember, when Price was asked by Senator Murray about buying stock in that other deal, the Australian biotech firm, he admitted that he was the one who made the call.  He was the one who directed his broker to buy the stock in his behalf.  He chose the stock.  But when Senator Elizabeth Warren asked him about the hip replacement company stock, that`s his other deal - stock, it would be illegal for him to knowingly purchase, he says his broker acted entirely on her own without his knowledge. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN:  Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the company she just bought stock in?

PRICE:  The stock was bought by a direct -- by a broker who was making those decisions.  I wasn`t making those decisions.

WARREN:  So let`s just be clear.  This is not just a stockbroker someone you pay to handle the paperwork, this is someone who buys stock at your direction.  This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them to buy and sell.

PRICE:  Not true.

WARREN:  So when you found out --

PRICE:  That`s not true, Senator.

WARREN:  Well, because you decide not to tell them?  Wink, wink, nod, nod, and we`re all just supposed to believe that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Joining me now, to help make sense about it all, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.  And Senator, I`ll start with what guest in the first segment, Katie Packer said that, do people really care if he -- if he profited of this?  What is your sense of why this should matter?

BEN CARDIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MARYLAND:  Well, I hope people care about this.  Obviously Mr. Price is responsible for his investments.  These are investments that are personal that he has made.  And he`s made several in the industry in which he serves on the committee and that can affect the value of those companies.  That in and of itself is the appearance of conflict but when we take look at the fact that he may have gotten a special deal of being able to buy some of the stock, the fact that he bought the stock and then introduced legislation that could affect its value, all of that raises very serious ethical issues and perhaps legal issues.  The person who should be Secretary of Health should not have those types of ethical lapses.

HAYES:  I have to say, Senator, that part of the old - the old cliche about the scandals, what`s legal has been a little bit - it`s been illuminating to see what exactly you guys now in congress are able to do within the law.  For instance, buying preferred stock from a company at a place you regulate.  But the Stock Act was introduced to cut out some of the worst excesses after a there`s a big investigation.  They`re saying - the Trump folks are saying that the CNN report is wrong, that it should be retracted and that Representative Price had no idea that that stock was being purchased for that hip company when he was going to introduce a legislation that benefitted them a week later.  Do you believe Congressman Price? 

CARDIN:  Well, you`re absolutely right about the Stock Act.  It was passed in order to prevent these types of abuses.  Look, I think this should never have been done.  A congressman should not be buying stock in a company and then introducing legislation certainly thereafter that affects its value.  A congressman should not be buying stock in a company that he`s on a committee that could affect its value.  And the congressman certainly should be very sensitive to getting special considerations of buying into a company perhaps at a reduced price.  Now, there`s two issues here: was it legal?  And that`s an issue that I cannot answer, but certainly this is something that is - that raises very serious ethical challenges at a minimum, and one that raises questions about Dr. Price.

HAYES:  I do have to ask you, Senator, if you adhere to that same standard for yourself.

CARDIN: Well, absolutely.  I have - I have divested of any individual stocks, because I don`t - I just don`t want to be engaged in any second guessing.  It`s not just I have conflicts, I don`t want to have the appearance of conflicts.  So, yes, I`m very careful as to type of investments that I participate in and try to use generic type funds. 

HAYES:  Yes, there`s - so there`s two issues here, right?  There`s these specific allegations, but there`s generally what has been established and which is not contested.  Is that as congressman, and with a key role in regular - in sort of, statutory oversight of the medical industry, he was individually picking stocks in that industry at the same time he`s voting for or drafting legislation that has a direct effect on the companies in that industry.

CARDIN:  And that presents a real challenge at a minimum.  You`re going to have appearance of conflicts.  You might have direct conflicts.  You may have illegal action.  It`s something that a congressman should avoid.

HAYES:  All right, Senator Cardin, thank you for your time tonight.  I appreciate it.

CARDIN:  Thank you.

HAYES:  All right.  Coming up, Senator Bernie Sanders goes head to head with Trump`s EPA pick.  That exchange is right after this short break.  Trust me, you do not want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Scientists officially declared 2016 the hottest year, which knocks out the previous record of 2015, which knocked out the previous record of 2014.  So, it is notable that when Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, climate change denialist and Trump`s choice to head the EPA went before the Senate for his confirmation hearing.  Senator Bernie Sanders tried to pin him down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS:  Do you believe that climate change is caused by the emission -- by carbon emissions by human activity?

PRUITT:  The climate is changing and human activity contributes to that in some manner.

SANDERS:  "In some manner", but you haven`t told me why you think the climate is changing.

PRUITT:  Well, Senator, the job of the administrator is to carry out the statutes as passed by this body.

SANDERS:  Why is the climate changing?

PRUITT:  Senator, in response to the CO2 issue, the EPA administrator is constrained by statutes --

SANDERS:  I`m asking you a personal opinion.

PRUITT:  My personal opinion is immaterial.

SANDERS:  Really?

PRUITT:  Senator, I`ve acknowledged to you that the human activity impacts the climate.

SANDERS:  Impacts.

PRUITT:  Yes.

SANDERS:  Scientific community doesn`t tell us it impacts, they say it is the cause of climate change, we have to transform our energy system.  Do you believe we have to transform our energy system in order to protect the planet for future generation?

PRUITT:  I believe the EPA is a very important role at regulating the emissions...

SANDERS:  You didn`t answer my question.

PRUITT:  Senator, I believe the administrator has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  It is kind of amazing.  He just won`t say the thing that he believes under oath in front of the senators, which if he doesn`t believe it, he should say, I guess.  But the prize for most staggering testimony may go to Trump`s nominee for secretary of education, and that as Senator Schatz said went kind of viral.  We will play that for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Donald Trump`s nominee for secretary of education posed a particular problem in her Senate confirmation hearing.  It`s already widely known that she`s quite ideologically extreme and has a host of possible conflicts of interest due to the vast fortune of her family.  The question really at heart was does Betsy DeVos know what she`s talking about with regard to education policy?

And we appeared to get our answer during this exchange with Senator Al Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA:  I would like your views on the relative advantage of measuring -- doing assessments and using them to measuring -- doing assessments and using them to measure proficiency or to measure growth.

BETSY DEVOS, NOMINEE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:  Thank you, senator, for that question.  I think if I`m understanding your question correctly around proficiency I would also correlate it to competency and mastery so that you -- each student is measured according to the advancement that they`re making in each subject area.

FRANKEN:  Well, that`s growth.  That`s not proficiency.  So in other words the growth they`re making is in growth, the proficiency is an arbitrary standard.

DEVOS:  If they`ve reached a level -- the proficiency is if they`ve reached, like, a third grade level for reading, et cetera.  Is that...

FRANKEN:  No, I`m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth.

DEVOS:  Yes.

FRANKEN:  And what your thoughts are on them.

DEVOS:  Well, I was just asking to clarify, then...

FRANKEN:  Well, this is a subject that is -- has been debated in the education community for years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  That might have been the worst moment, except for some of the other exchanges is when she would not commit to one of the most important pieces of federal education legislation, one which guarantees an education to children with disabilities.  Under repeated questioning from Senators Tim Kaine and Senator Maggie Hassan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA:  Should all schools that receive...

DEVOS:  If schools...

KAINE:  ...taxpayer funding being required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act?

DEVOS:  I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.

KAINE:  So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not so good and then what, people can just move around the country if they don`t like how their kids are being treated?

DEVOS:  I think that`s an issue that`s best left to the states.

MAGGIE HASSAN, (D) NEW HAMPSHIRE:  I want to go back to the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act, that`s a federal civil rights law.  So do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the states whether to follow it?

DEVOS:  The law must be followed -- federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in  play.

HASSAN:  So were you unaware what I just asked you about the IDEA, that it was a federal law?

DEVOS:  I may have confused it.

HASSAN:  I do have to say I`m concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Joining me now, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, a member of the senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions.

Senator, what was your impression of what this nominee does and doesn`t know about this fairly significant landmark piece of civil rights education?

HASSAN:  Well, Chris, it`s nice to be with you tonight.  And you know, education and access  to quality education for all our kids is really the foundation of our democracy.  Now, in my family, that includes making sure that both of my children, included making sure both of my children had access  to quality education and our now adult son Ben happens to have very severe and pervasive physical disabilities.

Ben doesn`t speak.  He can`t really use his fingers to access a keyboard, but he`s very cognitively able and because of the provisions of the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, he had access to the resources he needed in our public school system, in our community to learn and to graduate from high school.

And that`s the kind of opportunity we all want for all of our children.  And, you know, before the IDEA was passed, children like my son were often put in institutions where they didn`t have access to education, people assumed or stereotyped them believing that they couldn`t learn.  And when you think about the importance of that civil rights law to children like my son and children around the country it was just really concerning to me that Ms. DeVos seemed so unfamiliar with it, and particularly so unfamiliar with the problems that the voucher system that she has supported has had in honoring the IDEA.

HAYES:  What do you say to people that say that Senate Democrats on that committee are  essentially playing gotcha, that you are trying to quiz her and go into obscure areas of policy in order to catch her?

HASSAN:  There is nothing obscure to my family about the IDEA.  There is nothing obscure to most educators I know about the importance of educating all our children.  What I was trying to get at when I talked with Ms. DeVos at the hearing was my concern about the fact that the voucher programs that she had supported made children with disabilities if they were to receive a voucher like kids without disabilities do, it made those kids sign away their rights under the IDEA. 

So I thought it was very important to get her perspective on why she thought that was OK, and whether she would, as secretary of education, the country`s top education officer charged with making sure that all of our kids have access to free, appropriate public education so that they can thrive and participate in the 21st Century, be the work force we need.  I wanted to make sure she was committed to enforcing civil rights laws that protect all children so that they have access to education. 

And I was very concerned that she seemed confused or unfamiliar with the fact that the IDEA is a federal law, that she would be charged with enforcing and I think it`s appropriate that we make sure that the country`s top education officer really does understand the full obligations in the way our public education system works.

And I was very concerned she was so unfamiliar with such a basic thing and that goes to concerns that a lot of us have that Ms. DeVos does not have experience, significant experience with public education, didn`t go to public schools herself, her children don`t.  She`s never been a teacher.  So I just was very concerned.

HAYES:  Senator, are you going to vote for her?

HASSAN:  Look, I`m going to wait to get her written answers to all of the questions we`ve submitted, but I think it`s unlikely.

HAYES:  All right, Senator Maggie Hassan.  Thank you very much, appreciate it.

HASSAN:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Still to come, once he is president, could Donald Trump just stop any further investigation into Russia`s role in hacking during the election?  We`ll talk about that ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Thing One tonight, in March of last year after Donald Trump`s Republican primary victories in Michigan and Mississippi, Trump offered up a shameless display of what he claimed were Trump products that supposedly included a stack of Trump steaks.

But Trump steaks was a business venture lasting in earnest for just two months in the summer of 2007.  The meat on display that night appears to have been purchased from a local Florida butcher shop.  In fact, it was still bearing the labels from said butcher shop.  They were not, in other words, Trump steaks, they were stage props.

Now, Trump used a similar staging tactic last week during his long-awaited press conference when he appeared with a stack of manila folders on the desk next to him claiming they were signed documents making it official he had turned control of his businesses over to his sons, but when reporter asked to examine the folders, transition staffers blocked them.

From photos, the folders completely appeared to be brand new and completely unmarked.  His team later told us they were visual aids. 

Today, two days from the big inauguration speech, Trump released a photo that once again leaves you asking is that real or is it staged?  You make the call.  Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  So, reports have circulated this week that Donald Trump himself has written his own inauguration speech.  This, mind you, after Politico reported last month that Trump had tapped aide Stephen Miller to write his inaugural address.

A few hours ago, the Trump team released what appears to be photographic proof: "writing my inaugural address at the winter White House Mar-a-Lago three weeks ago.  Looking forward to Friday #inauguration."

When you take a closer look, it appears he`s writing the first draft of his speech with a Sharpie on what appears to be the first page a brand new legal pad.  Is it real or is it staged?

Well, as one Twitter user pointed out, that desk sure looks exactly like the Mar-a-Lago receptionist desk rather than a personal office.  Would the president-elect really be writing the speech there?  After spending entirely too much time looking at these two images, an All In producer noticed the tiling is slightly different, so inconclusive.

But then this image was unearthed and mystery solved.  Look at the desk next to receptionist, add an eagle statue and it appears Trump sat down next to the Mar-a-Lago receptionist to draft his first speech as president of the United States with a Sharpie and a brand spanking new note pad.

And while we can`t tell what`s on the page, because it`s conveniently tilted up, well, it all seems perfectly believable to me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  There`s never going to be a tape that shows up.  There`s never going to be anything that shows up.  Now, I would be very embarrassed if a tape actually showed up saying something like that.  It would be double embarrassed because I`m saying there is no tape.  There is no event.  I was never even in that room for that period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  OK, something that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin definitely seem to have in common is a willingness, even an eagerness, to talk directly about the substance of the unsubstantiated and salacious allegations concerning Trump`s conduct in Moscow published in that now famous dossier prepared by a former British spy, allegations that I find it pretty easy not to talk about, frankly.

So let`s forget about the dossier, throw it out, especially becxause when it comes to Trump`s alleged connections to Russia, the salacious details might well be a distraction from the real story.

Back in October, Harry Reid sent a somewhat strange letter to FBI Director James Comey claiming Comey was sitting on, quote, "explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government."

Comey, of course, had spoken publicly about the FBI`s investigation into Hillary Clinton while it was going on, potentially costing Clinton the election in the eyes of some polling analysts, but he has refused to address whether the FBI was also investigating Trump to the consternation of many observers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRETOR:  We never confirm or deny a pending investigation.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE:  The irony of your making that statement here I cannot avoid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  It has been established by U.S. intelligence agencies that they have high confidence the Russian government intervened during the election to damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump.

What is far, far less clear is whether there is any truth to Reid`s allegation that Trump and his a allies coordinated with the Russians which, if true,would obviously be a massive scandal. 

But we might just get to the bottom of it all.  Numerous media outlets citing anonymous sources have reported in recent days that intelligence agencies have been investigating possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

And today, McClatchy reported that the FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation dealing in part with whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided Trump and are scrutinizing the activities of a few Americans who were affiliated with Trump`s campaign or his business empire.

Again, we don`t know if there is any coordination but national security officials have confirmed to NBC News, the intelligence agencies are continuing to investigate how the Russian operation was financed and carried out and whether any Americans were involved.

Now, there`s a big catch to all this, which is that in two days, as you may well remember, Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, which gives him significant power over that  investigation.  So could Trump just shut the investigation down and what happens if he tries?  We`ll explore that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Joining me now to discuss the possible investigation into links between the Russian government, the Trump campaign and whether Trump can shut any investigation down when he takes office is former Justice Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Obviously, you know, I don`t -- we don`t know the current state of play, investigation is a weird word.  Also, you and I have talked about how, you know, we don`t try people in the court of public opinion and lots of things can be investigated and don`t go anywhere.

If there is an investigation currently happening on inauguration day, can the new president order it shut down?

MATTHEW MILLER, FRM. FBI SPOKESPERSON:  You know, the answer to that really depends on whether the new attorney general and whether the FBI director are going to hold to the longstanding traditions of rule of law.  I mean, there is a longstanding tradition that, no, presidents  can`t order the Justice Department to stop investigations.  They can`t order them to start investigations either.

But, you know, that`s not written in code anywhere. It`s not written in rule. It`s enforced because attorneys general and FBI directors have followed that standard. And the one time when it wasn`t in our history, during the middle of the Watergate scandal when President Nixon ordered the attorney general to stop an investigation it led to the resignation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and you have to hope that`s what would happen here if President Trump were to try something like that.

HAYES:  You tweeted earlier today about DOJ ethics rules in terms of Jeff Sessions were he to be confirmed, whoever is attorney general, about whether they could be the one overseeing a investigation. What are the DOJ ethics rules say about that?

MILLER:  You know, they are very clear.  I mean, there are rules about not investigating anything in which you were a member of in the previous two years. But they`re actually even more specific when it relates to political campaigns and they say just point blank that if you were involved in a political campaign in an official position which Jeff Sessions was, he was the chair of Donald Trump`s national security advisory committee on the campaign, you cannot be involved in that investigation.

So that means if Jeff Sessions is going to follow the rules, he has to recuse himself on day one, the day he joins.  And he actually has an outstanding question on this matter from Democratic Senators who have asked him the answer to that and it`s going to be telling what his response is, and hopefully he provides that before confirmation.

HAYES:  What about Comey`s role in all of this?  I mean, I know you have been critical of the way that he`s conducted himself in terms of the Clinton investigation.  You felt that he was way outside the norms and precedent. 

Do you -- I guess fundamentally, do you have faith or trust in him that they -- that this -- if there is an investigation that they will pursue it doggedly and let the chips fall where they may?

MILLER:  You know, I have faith in Jim Comey to pursue an aggressive investigation, but with something like this there are so many questions swirling around Comey himself.  You know, why did he do what he did to Clinton?  Why did he refuse to join that statement that other intelligence agencies join before the election, pointing out Russian involvement.  And now with him under investigation himself by the inspector-general, I think it`s very difficult for him to lead this investigation. 

I really think the thing needs to be taken out of the regular chain of command at the Justice Department.  There needs to be a special counsel, a special set of FBI agents that have full authority to investigate this and go wherever the facts lead them.  And, you know, not have to worry about...

HAYES:  Is there precedent for that, Matthew?

MILLER:  Yeah, there is.  There have been special counsels appointed. You know, Eric Holder appointed several. In fact, General Mukasey (ph) appointed several at the end of the Bush administration.  So, it is, when there are serious political things that are tough for sitting attorneys general to investigate because of their relationship with the White House, there`s longstanding precedent for doing this and it`s really -- I think the only way you can have a fair unquestioned investigation into this.

HAYES:  All right, Matthew Miller, thank you for being with me tonight.  Appreciate it.

MILLER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  That`s All In for this evening.  The Rachel Maddow show starts right now.  Good evening,

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END